Islington Museum is down a street very few people would walk down unless they lived close by and down some stairs very few people would walk down unless they really liked museums. Luckily I do so down I went into the, thankfully not all dark and dingy, basement.
Inside, its bright and spacious. The displays were put together in 2008 and don’t look dated yet with a good mix of objects and text panels so you can choose if you want to read more. I liked how the text panels included quotes and local stories to put everything in context of local people and places.
In local museums you can often feel like you’ve seen it all before – a few neolithic, bronze age and Roman artefacts, some Victorian school displays, the World Wars and a bit about leisure in the area. While this museum didn’t exactly break the local museum mould I did get a sense of some special Islington things. I loved the ‘radicals’ section, particularly the focus on the disability right’s movement that had many innovators in the area and the suffragette’s Holloway Prison brooch is a really lovely, poignant piece,
But my favourite part of the museum took me back to my archaeology roots and my dissertation on 19th century London finds. So bear with me, this might not be everyone’s cup of tea…basically it is a display case with three shelves and on each shelf is a selection of objects found at one house in Islington from different times. Part of a willow pattern plate, ceramic tobacco pipes, a child’s shoe, a cigarette packet, part of and gas mask and playing cards help capture the everyday life of the home through the centuries. Below this in a series of drawers are pieces of wallpaper from different rooms and different periods. I just loved it. I would happily have gone to a whole exhibition just exploring this further.
Its a shame that many local museums are hidden away when a museum is Britain’s most visited attraction (British Museum) and there are apparently more museums in America than McDonalds and Starbucks combined, so we know there’s an appetite for museums and people really do care about their local history and heritage. But I’m proud that so many exist still all over London (and obviously beyond!) and I’ll make sure I keep visiting them and spreading the word.
Islington Museum is open 10am – 5pm (closed Wednesdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays)